'Watershed' year for Hollywood diversity amid pandemic streaming boom: report

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Female and minority actors were proportionately represented in Hollywood for the first time last year in a "watershed moment for diversity," says a report released Thursday.

But authors warned the "enormous gains" could be the result of an anomalous year that saw major theatrical releases postponed due to the pandemic, and low-budget streaming titles with more diverse casts and crew coming to the fore.

Darnell Hunt, co-author of the Hollywood Diversity Report, said it was "encouraging to see skyrocketing numbers this year in front of the camera" for women and people of color.

Non-white actors accounted for nearly 40 percent of lead roles in top films -- roughly in line with their share of the US population, and up from just 10.5 percent a decade ago.

"People of color and women made tremendous strides among film leads since the last report, cementing 2020 as a watershed moment for diversity in this important employment arena," the report said.

At nearly 48 percent, lead roles played by female actors were also just shy of proportionate representation.

But films with female and non-white stars were more likely to have smaller budgets in 2020 than those with white and male leads, the report found.

With theaters closed for much of last year, film consumption dramatically shifted from multiplexes and arthouse cinemas to streaming platforms.

The annual report considers the top 185 films, ranked by box office and streaming ratings, and warned that many smaller-budget, diverse movies released last year on streaming would not have made the cut in other years.

And films with female or racial minority directors "often have smaller budgets than those helmed by male directors and white directors," said Ana-Christina Ramon, co-author of the report from University of California, Los Angeles.

"There is a clear underinvestment of films made by, written by, and led by women and people of color," she said.

The report comes three days before an Oscars ceremony that has set records for diversity among nominees.

Last year, Cynthia Erivo was the only non-white actor among 20 nominations, but this time the late Chadwick Boseman ("Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"), Black British actor Daniel Kaluuya ("Judas and the Black Messiah") and South Korean star Youn Yuh-Jung ("Minari") are frontrunners for acting statuettes.

Beijing-born Chloe Zhao ("Nomadland") is the strong favorite to win best director.